So, we’ve been asked to write about our interpretation of the term “digital alchemy.” My first experience with the word “alchemy” probably came in a sophomore science class in highschool. I don’t remember much except that it was a medieval precursor to science that involved trying to turn lead to gold, which seemed totally plausible back then considering they thought flies generated spontaneously from rotting meat. I think the idea of alchemy continued for a while, at least into the Renaissance when actual science starting popping up. Don’t quote me on that, though.
Anyway, continuing with my vocabulary narrative. My next encounter with the word “alchemy” came only a few months later when the brilliant anime “Fullmetal Alchemist” began to air Saturday nights on Cartoon Network. It is from this anime that most of my ideas about alchemy come, including equivalent exchange, transmutation circles, homunculi, and chimeras. The anime follows two brothers whose lives are changed forever when they try to bring their mother back from the dead by transmuting all the chemical compounds in a human body, not taking into account the need for a soul. It leaves one of them without a body (their soul gets attached to an empty suit of armor), and the other loses an arm and a leg trying to save his brother. They get embroiled in all sorts of adventures that always tend to invoke some kind of philosophical thought in viewers; it was like catnip for my teenage self.
My more modern interpretation of alchemy involves the idea of genre and media blending. I’m a huge fan of “chimera genres” like magical realism (which combines literary fiction with fantasy), and most of my creative work takes place within that realm. My favorite authors include Gabriel García Márquez and Karen Russell, both of whom are huge inspirations of mine for a number of reasons. Last semester I took Dr. Zamora’s Intro to E-Lit class, and that showed me just how fertile the ground for media blending is in the digital age. Getting back on point, I think digital alchemy is a way to blend literary and technological elements that otherwise would not come together in order to tell new stories in new ways. Yeah, sorry you had to sit through a load of rambling just to get to that one main point…
As for the title of my blog, it also comes from the Renaissance era, when noblemen would collect curiosities in a “wonder room,” or “wunderkammer” in German-speaking regions. Wunderkammern are a fascination for me, and I even call my personal collection of antiques, taxidermy, fossils, insects, and travel mementos by that name. I figured that a perfect place to conduct digital alchemy would be a digital wunderkammer, hence my blog’s title!